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Filling all requests the gentlemanly thing to do

Fan mail — and I use that term a bit loosely — doesn’t flock across my desk the way you think it does. Or maybe you don’t think it does — in which case, shame on you for underestimating your friendly, local newspaper columnist. 

But last week we received two responses from the second of two columns we wrote about the Statler Brothers. One was a favorable response, and then there was the other.

In short, my other responder said something to the effect of: “What? Don’t you have anything better to write about than the Statler Brothers? How about writing about hamburgers. Or lemonade?”

We always appreciate samples of eloquent satire, so we smiled at the response. At the same time, I got to thinking. Since one of the hardest parts of column writing is coming up with good topics, we owe a thanks to our satirical friend. He gave us not one but two good topics with his lemonade and hamburgers requests. Oh, he reminded me of a story about number 99, so make that three. I only have a couple of things to say about lemonade: One, please buy lemonade from kids every time you see them selling it on the corner. And, two, don’t forget that lemonade goes well with a good, juicy burger — which brings us to our second topic: hamburgers.

Coca-Cola Mike will tell you that on every LaGrange trip we have to find the nearest Krystal’s the minute he and Glory pick us up at the Atlanta airport. You can’t find Krystal’s out here in Texas, and almost every attempt to implant one has lasted about as long as an Auburn salesman selling War-Eagle season-tickets in Tuscaloosa. But our love for Krystal’s goes way back, back to when the only two nearby were in Columbus and West Point. 

My mouth watered every time we went to a gospel meeting over in Columbus and Preacher Miller drove by Krystal’s. No, don’t get me started talking about my favorite burger. 

There’s another hamburger establishment that won my heart while I was a young boy roaming this Georgia red dirt. It was Simmon’s Grill, located right up the hill from grandma’s on Truitt, right by Art’s Cleaners. 

A Simmon’s burger cost a quarter, and it was at a price that even my modest quarter-a-week week allowance could afford — if I hadn’t bought too many packs of baseball cards that week. I’d love to go back there again, sit at that bar, watch Mr. Simmons smoke those burgers, and then enjoy the best 25-cent burger in the world.

Now, if Mike’s Burgers had been around in 1965, he might have rivaled Simmon’s. Mike’s Burgers sat right on Main Street across from the Square. On one of my last visits to Mike’s before he closed, I ran into my 6-feet-10-inches high school buddy Ken Boatwright there. I may not have seen Ken since 1974. 

I moved over to his booth, and we enjoyed a good hour of reminiscing. We both had pretty good basketball backgrounds — his as a star at LaGrange High School before playing a little at the University of Georgia, and mine mostly as a longtime high school coach in Texas as well as a self-proclaimed legend down at the Callaway Y.

I’d say sitting and eating a Mike’s hamburger with his special formula and rolling back the clock a couple of decades with an old friend was about as good of a stroll down memory lane as you could ask for. I’d like to roll back the clock like that again.

For now, this is the best I can do to fulfill the request to write about lemonade and hamburgers. But, if these stories don’t prove satisfactory, I thought of another story. I am sure there is no connection. Rick Shirley — an old coaching friend and a member of the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame — told me a story years ago about an incident when he was young and coaching junior high football. 

All during one game a mama up in the stands kept hollering, “Play  number 99!” By the fourth quarter, Rick got tired of her yelling down to him, so he decided to put number 99 in. He called the young him over, gave him the play to send in, and sent the young man hustling into the game. The play was a dive off of right tackle, right where number 99 was playing. When the dust settled, number 99 was the last one to get up from the bottom of the pile. He staggered back to the huddle, dirt and grass sticking out of his facemask, and Rick called the same play again.

Just as before, number 99 was the last one to get up from the bottom of the pile, this time slower than before. So, Rick figured he’d better get him out. Rick said that when the boy jogged over to the sideline, his helmet was turned sideways, and he was looking out of the ear hole. Rick put his arm around the young man and said, “Good job,” and the young man just grinned.

Then he thought of the boy’s mama, and he wondered if there was anybody else she might want to see play. So, he hollered up to her,

“Ma’am, got any more requests?”